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12 Completely Outdated SEO Practices You Should Avoid

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Search engines work towards improving their algorithms on an ongoing basis to ensure a positive experience for search users.

As a part of these efforts, they will identify and remove anything they deem as low quality or spam from search engine results pages.

What does that mean for marketers? If you aren’t updating your tactics as frequently as search engines update their quality guidelines, your website may fall behind your competition in rankings.

In this post, we’ll discuss the outdated SEO and marketing tactics that you should remove from your marketing playbook.

1. Misusing Keywords

There are so many ways webmasters and marketers continue to misunderstand keywords’ role in general SEO initiatives, and how they should be used in the day-to-day strategy.

Let’s take a more granular look at specific types of keyword misuse and mismanagement, including irrelevant usage, writing for a specific keyword density, and keyword stuffing.

Irrelevant Keyword Targeting/Confusion

All too often, novice SEO practitioners try and fit their content and messaging within the confines of their keyword research (and not much else).

They will shape the content and its metadata to represent keywords it’s not properly aligned with, nor the proper intent of the users conducting the searches for the high-volume keywords being targeted.

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This causes brands to lose the attention of readers before ever having the chance to communicate a real message with them.

If the keywords marketed for don’t align with the content on the page, the disconnect will hinder the success of content — even if it’s otherwise of good quality.

Don’t try to mislead users and direct them to content that is misrepresented by high-volume keywords in order for increased visibility.

Google knows what this looks like, and it can truly be defined as an obsolete SEO practice (as well as a “black hat” technique, in many instances).

Keyword Density

Writing for a specific keyword density, like many keyword-focused marketing tactics, is just missing the mark.

Google no longer depends on keyword density (or the ratio of specific keyword usage to the overall page copy) to determine whether a webpage is an effective source for answering a search query.

It is so much more advanced than simply crawling for keywords. Search engines like Google use a multitude of signals to determine search results.

While keywords remain important to the topics and ideas they represent, they are not the lifeline for ranking for high-value search queries.

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The quality of content and how the messaging is delivered are the lifeline for that.

Keyword Stuffing

This is probably the oldest trick in the book.

SEO is about keywords, right?

So, loading up our webpages with keywords – especially the same high-value keyword we are aggressively targeting throughout the website – is going to help us show up higher in search, thus outranking our competition. Right?

Absolutely not.

Search engines have, for a long time, known what keyword stuffing is and what kind of text combinations are unnatural. They notice these as attempts to manipulate search results and demote the content as such.

Yes, there may still be valuable content that uses simple keyword stuffing, either intentionally or unintentionally, that is not demoted because of its actual value to users.

Back in the day, webmasters trying to game the system would go as far as putting every keyword variation of a high-value keyword in the website footer.

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Or, even more sketchily, they might make those keywords the same color as the site’s background, effectively hiding them from humans but not the search engine crawlers.

Webmasters have also tried this with links. Don’t do anything like this.

Remember, you’re writing for humans, not search engines.

2. Writing for Robots

It’s important to understand that writing unnaturally is, well, not natural.

And search engines know it.

This misplaced belief is: Writing for the web means we should repeat a subject by its proper name every time it is mentioned, working in variations and plural/non-plural versions of the word so that “all bases are covered.”

When crawled, the crawlers see the keyword repeated, and in several different versions, thus leading the page to rank well for the keyword variations used (over and over… and over again).

This just doesn’t work anymore.

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Search engines are advanced enough to understand repeated keywords, their variations, and the unfavorable experience of generally bad content.

Write for humans, not search engine crawlers or any other robot.

3. Article Marketing

Any attempt to game the system doesn’t usually work out in the world of SEO.

But that doesn’t stop people from trying.

Especially when these tactics offer noticeable improvements to a brand, its website, and/or its associated digital properties.

Sure, article directories worked. And they worked pretty darn good for a long time, too.

Commonly considered one of the earliest forms of digital marketing, article syndication was low-hanging fruit to those in the know. And it made sense since the idea was similar to other channels like TV and print that already use syndicated content regularly.

But Google eventually caught on, unleashing its game-changing Panda update in 2011.

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Panda chewed up the search landscape, targeting content farms and directories, as well as other websites offering crap content (whether it was simply bad/false, horribly written, made no sense, was stolen from someone else, etc.).

The idea behind article marketing doesn’t make sense in today’s world, where your high-quality content needs to be original and demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

4. Article Spinning

Typically done with software, article spinning is the black hat tactic of trying to recreate quality content using different words, phrases, and organization.

Essentially, the end result was a garbled mess of an article that made the same points as the source material.

It’s no surprise this isn’t effective anymore.

While AI is getting better all the time at creating content, anything generated by a machine is still of a lower quality than what a human can produce – something original, helpful, and of substance.

5. Buying Links

This one is still biting webmasters many years later.

Like most SEO tactics, if it seems shady, you probably shouldn’t do it.

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Buying links is no different.

Once upon a time, it was routine practice to quickly pay to get a high volume of links pointing at your site.

Now we know that backlink profiles need to be maintained and optimized just like the websites we oversee, and low-quality domains with far too many backlinks pointing to a website may be dangerous to a website’s health.

Google can easily identify low-quality sites, and it will also identify when those sites are sending an abundance of links out that they shouldn’t be.

Today, if you want to legitimately help boost the authority and visibility of your website, you need to earn links — not pay someone to build them manually.

6. Overusing Anchor Text

Internal linking is a characteristic of any good site structure and user experience.

This is typically done with anchor text, an HTML element that allows us to tell users what type of content they can expect if they click on a link.

There are various types of anchor text (branded, naked, exact-match, website/brand name, page title and/or headline, etc.), but some have most certainly become more favorable than others, depending on the usage and situation.

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In the past, using exact-match and keyword-rich anchor text were standard SEO best practices.

Since Penguin, Google has been better at identifying over-optimized content.

This goes back to the Golden Rule about producing well-constructed content that is user-friendly and natural.

If you’re optimizing for search engines and not humans, you’re likely going to fail.

7. Practicing Obsolete Keyword Research Tactics

Keywords have certainly gone through some drastic changes over the last five to 10 years.

Marketers used to have a plethora of keyword-level data at their fingertips, allowing us to see what works well for our brand and what doesn’t, but also to get a better understanding of idea targeting and user intent.

Much of this went to the wayside with keyword “(not provided)”.

In the years following, tools popped up that tried to replicate keyword data. But to fully recreate it correctly is simply impossible.

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And yet, even with that now-stripped keyword data, marketers are required to do keyword research of their own to get an understanding of the industry, the competition, the geographic region, etc.

To do this, many marketers turn to Google’s free Keyword Planner. While the data in there has been subject to some scrutiny over the years, it’s a free Google-owned product that gives us data we previously couldn’t really come by, so many of us continue to use it (myself included).

But it’s important to remember what the data actually represents for keywords.

“Competition” in the Keyword Planner pertains solely to paid competition and traffic, thus it is practically useless to build an organic search strategy around this data.

Some alternatives to this are the Moz Keyword Explorer tool and Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool, both of which are paid tools.

Google Trends is helpful for this type of competitive analysis, too, and it’s free.

8. Creating Pages for All Keyword Variations

This was once a useful tactic to rank well for all the variations of high-value keywords targeted by your brand and its messaging.

Fortunately, algorithm updates like HummingbirdRankBrain, and others have helped Google understand that variations of the same word are, in fact, all related to the same topic.

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The best, most useful content around these entities should be most visible due to the value it offers users on the topic, not just one variation of the word.

Aside from the fact that this will lead to brutal site self-cannibalization, it makes a website considerably harder to use and navigate since the content will be so incredibly similar.

The negative user experience alone is reason enough not to do this. But the added fact that Google knows better than to overlook this practice makes it a no-brainer.

This tactic evolved and eventually helped lead to the inception of many content farms that were targeting traffic solely for their keyword value and visibility.

This was attributed to the “old way” of optimizing a website – for keywords and search engines, rather than users and their intent.

9. Targeting Exact-Match Search Queries

The tactic of targeting exact-match search queries in hopes to rank for those queries solely for the traffic numbers – and not because the search query or its answer actually pertained to the business optimizing for it – became a somewhat popular practice before the full deployment of the Google Knowledge Graph.

Marketers would strive to rank in the top spot for exact-match search queries to trigger a breakout box and an increased click-through rate for their sites.

10. Buying Exact-Match Domains

Having high-value keywords in your URL makes sense. To some extent.

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But when it becomes confusing or misleading (i.e., it results in a bad user experience), you have to draw the line.

A main best practice for domains is to keep them consistent with your brand.

Brand names should be short, concise, and somewhat meaningful.

Why wouldn’t you want the same from your domain?

Google would value exact-match domains a long time ago because it made sense to use it as a signal.

The behavioral data now has helped Google make changes like this (and many others) that are common sense, clean-up moves.

Run a good company and offer great products and/or services under the brand name, and Google will do the work of making your brand visible when it’s relevant to the people searching for it.

11. Relying on Third-Party Domain Authority Scores

Have you built a link building or content distribution campaign off of a list of high-quality sites?

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If the list ranked websites based on domain authority alone, then you will have to do further analysis to ensure the websites you are contacting are valuable to your campaign.

  • Is the content on the website relevant to what you are promoting?
  • Does the website receive organic search traffic from relevant keywords?
  • If traffic from North America is important to your business, does the website receive traffic from that region?
  • Are the incoming links to the website relevant?

Domain authority scores can help you filter out some quality sites. But they shouldn’t be the only metric/factor you rely on in your marketing strategy.

12. Publishing Subpar Content

Face it. There was a time in our world when crappy content could rank well.

Oh, how times have changed.

Stolen content, thin content, keyword-stuffed content, non-credible content – all of this could get by search engine crawlers and regurgitated back to users as worthy results.

But no more.

We know what it takes to make quality content that is rewarded by search engines because they tell us what’s right and what’s wrong.

If you want to succeed at SEO today, you must do what’s right.

You need to be the best answer.

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When you’re ready to create a new piece of content, start by researching the content that ranks for your target keywords. Chances are, the content on the first page of search results is above average quality.

Thus, your content needs to be above average quality if you want to ultimately outrank your competitors.

Once you write the first draft, have an editor fine-tune your content. They can fix mistakes you may overlook and enhance the overall readability of your content for visitors.

If you can’t hire an editor, you can run your content through AI editors like the Hemingway Editor, Grammarly, or ProWritingAid.

Key Takeaways

Outdated SEO tactics may seem like an easy win for your search marketing campaign. But in the long run, the low-hanging fruit could poison your marketing efforts.

Avoid anything that could be considered low-quality or spam in your search marketing to ensure the safety of your rankings from changes to the Google algorithm.

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Featured Image: eamesBot/Shutterstock

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SEO

SEO Trends, Organic Growth & Personal Branding With Craig Campbell

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SEO Trends, Organic Growth & Personal Branding With Craig Campbell

The game of search has evolved into something far beyond just optimizing your site for Google alone.

Digital marketers are pressured to deliver results and are often conflicted about which marketing channels to prioritize or add into the mix.

“You don’t want to focus on one way of getting traffic.” That’s the advice of Craig Campbell: a well-known SEO professional from Glasgow and PageOptimizer Pro’s #1 most influential SEO of 2020.

We had a chance to catch up with the man behind the SEO YouTube channel that welcomes you with “knowledge bombs that will make you money” – to get his take on the latest SEO trends, digital marketing tools worth checking out, and agency life.

Read on and glean new insight as he shares bits of hard-earned wisdom from his 20 years of experience in the SEO industry.

Past And Future SEO Trends

Being in the SEO business for two decades, how much has the SEO landscape changed since you first became interested?

Craig Campbell: “While it has changed a lot in some ways, we still have the core fundamentals of content and links being massively important: the same way they were at the very start of my journey in this industry.

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Sure, things have evolved a great deal, and the quality of content, the relevance of links, and a lot of other nuances are in place. But the basics are still very similar.

What I do love is that these days, the learning curve is a lot easier, and we have clever people all over the world creating amazing tools to help us with competitor analysis and much more.

Whereas back then, it was a lot of trial and error, embracing the changes and utilizing the tools to make the job a lot easier has helped a lot over recent years.

But I think, for me, learning how to do it the hard way, using my own brain and common sense, and not having everything handed to me on a plate … it really did help me learn.

It took longer, but I won’t lie – it was a lot of fun, too. So these days, I find SEO a lot easier as I once had to do it the hard way.”

What do you know about SEO now that you wish you’d known when you first started?

CC: “I’ve been asked this a lot. I’ve enjoyed the whole journey. And I’ve made countless mistakes, but they have gotten me to where I am today. However, one thing I struggled with at the start was building SOPs and training my internal team to do the tasks I wanted to do.

For many years, I struggled to do this properly, and it massively hampered my ability to scale and contributed a lot of unnecessary stress to my life. So, learning to delegate and building SOPs [standard operating procedures] much sooner would have been good.

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Other things, like trying and testing for myself and trying to read between the lines when I watch a talk or presentation, are things I wish I had done. I was a little naive back in the day and used to take things at face value and would simply add some of what other people had said without doing my own testing.

Like many others at the start of their careers, I didn’t know how good I was, but there becomes this part of the journey where you undervalue yourself or allow your prices to be driven down, and before you know it, you have a whole heap of clients who are paying you very little and wasting all of your time, energy, and resources.

So, I wish someone had sat me down and tried to give me that advice. But unfortunately, we [were] all in a similar position when I started in the early 2000s – no one knew what they were doing, let alone their actual value.”

Where do you expect the SEO industry is heading in the next three years?

CC: “This is a question that is really difficult to answer; I’ve seen and heard people say things over the years like ‘voice search‘ is the next big thing, and ‘let’s all double down on that.’

We have seen people talk about ‘AMP‘ and many other things, including AI content and how we will replace content writers with AI. I don’t think a lot of these things have worked out too well.

And without being a specialist in technology and how all of these things are being developed, I don’t see any major dramatic changes over the coming years.

It’s clear as day that Google is trying to force the organic search positions further down. However, organic traffic still converts really well.

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But 20 years into the industry, I still see many websites and SEOs still not doing the basics properly. So, I think people need to level up on their processes and SOPs and how they see their website and start to treat them as a real business. I think that’s where people will see gains over the next few years.

Nothing massively new in terms of major changes to the industry; we do evolve, Google does bring updates out, and of course, those cutting corners or not doing the basics right eventually get penalized in some way, shape, or form.”

Marketing Tools And Channels To Drive Traffic

Is there one SEO tool, in particular, that you’d recommend for local businesses?

CC: “One tool, for local, is really hard. I use a number of tools for different elements of local, like Local Falcon, for checking out my Google Business Profile’s ranking positions.

I really do think even now, many small businesses don’t realize how much traffic comes from those map positions.

For sure, loads of people do it in our SEO community, but overall that’s, in reality, a small part of the world. I see so many businesses out there who are not even ranking those, let alone local landing pages.”

How about a particular marketing channel that can be beneficial for driving organic traffic?

CC: “This is something I’m often missing out on. Platforms, such as Reddit and Pinterest, are ones I hear people getting amazing traffic from, but I’ve yet to dive into them properly.

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I recently bought a Pinterest course to try and work out what people are doing on there to get all this traffic. But over the years, I have built up a good email list, always capturing people’s data – a very old-school way of marketing, but email marketing works really well even now.

Social media, in general – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok – are the ones I’m on.

Now, it has been reported that TikTok gets more traffic than Google itself. Not sure how accurate that statement is, but what I do know is that there are a ton of people on that platform, and it would be stupid to ignore it due to the sheer volume of people on there.

As an SEO, I’m always looking at ways to drive good traffic to my website, whether that be paid, social, emails, or retargeting via pixels. I think you need to try and grab what you can out there. You don’t want to focus on one way of getting traffic.

YouTube, over the last few years, has been an amazing platform for me personally. When COVID hit, I took the opportunity to do a lot more video content, and that has worked very well in my favor.”

Taking The Leap To Build A Personal Brand

What should a digital marketer know about being in an SEO agency from Day 1?

CC: “I think they should learn as much as they can from agency life, see it as their apprenticeship, and learn as much as they can on the processes, reporting, how to retain clients, and all of the amazing stuff that agencies do very well.

But they should also know that there is a lot of fluff on the agency side and a lot of client deliverables that don’t always mean they are good from an SEO perspective.

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I’m not saying every agency does all the fluff or offers substandard work. But I do see a lot of people who come out of agencies and believe in all the fluff that they are trained to speak to clients about.

So, I think, in general, they should know that playing the actual SEO game against what we tell clients is very often a different game. So, they should know the difference, which will stand them in good stead when they leave agency life.

I have a very good friend whom I’ve watched grow in recent years. Ryan Darani worked for a big digital agency, and for sure, he learned some amazing things there, which still work very well in his favor (mainly from an audit, reporting, and technical perspective).

However, there were areas of weakness and some bad agency mindset that had to be ironed out now that he is a freelancer. He has adapted very well and is doing amazing for someone who went out on his own just two years ago.

But overall, grab all you can from agency life, particularly those SOP processes, reporting – all the technical stuff you can, as this is often something many people who haven’t experienced agency life fall short on.”

What’s been your greatest digital marketing achievement to date?

CC: “The best achievement, other than some of the website flips and money gains I’ve made on certain projects – which, of course, no one really cares about – would be making the transition from unknown agency owner into becoming a personal brand.

A lot of people think that it is an easy task. The reality is, speaking at conferences, being on video, and offering value upfront is a lot of hard work. Not just traveling to conferences but speaking in front of an audience took me outside my comfort zone.

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Being sat on YouTube, doing podcasts, and all of the other stuff was something I had never done before; and even in my school days, I hated speaking in front of an audience.

Watching many others build up personal brands while I was building my agency was great to watch, and I always had a [voice] inside me saying, ‘You can do this! Why don’t you go and do it? Why let anyone else get up there and get the exposure?’

You have to believe in yourself and make sure that you get yourself up there. While many folks will not want to do that because they are shy, an introvert, or whatever, when speaking to other speakers, they all have similar fears or get nervous before speaking.

And I, for sure, had serious nerves at the start of my speaking career, and it was amazing to push through and overcome those fears, and that was a massive achievement for me.”

Key To SEO And Career Growth

Can you share any SEO growth hack that always works for you?

CC: “For many years, I’ve always seen traffic work very well when sent to a video, blog post, page, or whatever. Even if we take LinkedIn, for example.

If I do a post on LinkedIn, and someone in my network likes it, comments on it, or shares it, that post is then seen by their friends, which turns into more engagement, and then their friends see it and hopefully comment and like the post.

When Google sees something that is widely engaged, it ranks it well. The same goes for any social media platform when you want a post to go viral.

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So, tip 1: Offer value upfront. Don’t put out bland, boring content; people will simply not engage. Try and offer some value upfront.

Tip 2: So, when I do a blog post, I will then send it to my push notification subscribers. It then goes out on social media. If it’s a really good post, it will also go out to my mailing list. I then also might do some paid social ads.

This kickstarts the post, article, or whatever you are trying to put out there, but you must utilize your own audience first and use a sequence of events to get traffic onto your articles, which in turn, if done well, should give you the lift you need to make the post viral to some degree.”

What advice do you have for those just getting started in their SEO careers or launching their startup?

CC: “I see so many people early in their careers or when they launch a start-up analyze every single small detail before taking action. I’d highly recommend simply taking action. Why over-analyze things? Keep it simple and use common sense.

A bit of effort never goes far wrong in this industry, and it is always good to learn from mistakes you make anyway. Just start taking action.

I’ve made more mistakes than most, but as long as I learn from them, then it’s always a good thing.

You will never ever hit your goals straight off the bat; whether it’s your SEO career or a project you’re working on, things can be tweaked as you go. No one in this game knows 100% of what they are doing, so don’t be fooled by anyone suggesting that they do.

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Read between the lines and never be scared to test and add your own mix to things.”

Check out this SEJ Show episode with Loren Baker, where Campbell shared his insights on domain leasing, link-building best practices, and a lot more.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Courtesy of Craig Campbell/SEO Glasgow

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